- January 30, 2018
- Joe Danehower
Today is Tuesday. Tomorrow might as well be too. Another mundane, routine day filling space between weekends. There’s the early morning wake up, groggy shower, bitter coffee, wrinkled dress shirt, dirty car, slightly insightful podcast, same parking spot, cluttered desk, stale lunch, awkward small talk, mindless workout, netflix, sleep. Nothing about it feels adventurous or even remotely life giving. But we do it again. And again. And again.
Why? Better yet how?
We know we are made for more, but where is there “more” when our life circumstances dictate that we must work and live with so much routine? I wrestle with this most weeks, and I fall into the millennial trap of scrolling Instagram looking at far off places and people who seem to be living the perfect life. I want that, so I plan trips, find the trendy restaurants in town, or buy a stupid pair of European sneakers because the internet says they will somehow add value to my life. I look for anything and everything that temporarily seems to brighten and break apart the routine. But it doesn’t work for long, and mere days after attempted adventure I find myself right back where I started. Wrinkled dress shirt and all.
I think I’ve forgotten something. I think we have forgotten something. We are made for adventure, but I think we are looking in the wrong places. Maybe, just maybe, excitement lies far closer than a red eye flight to Iceland. Maybe satisfaction doesn’t sit in the froth of a small batch, locally made IPA. These things are good, but they never will reach the depth of me, of you. They will never call all of you into the soul stirring joy we ravenously seek.
Saint Augustine once wrote, “The good things you love are all from God. But they are good and sweet only as long as they are used to do his will. They will rightly turn bitter if God is spurned and the things that come from him are wrongly loved. Why do you still choose to travel by this hard and arduous path? There is no rest to be found where you seek it. In the land of death you try to find a happy life; it is not there. How can life be happy where there is no life at all?”
It’d be an understatement to say he is on to something. When we don’t find joy and satisfaction in this world, we are forced to look upward. Here is where the friction lies. Branches of Western Christianity have almost subversively convinced us that to know God is to transcend this life, to escape routine and float above and outside of circumstance. Mystics have sought this in the context of various religions and traditions. Modern agnostic spirituality preaches this disembodied transcendence. But how can this be true when God himself did not remain above the world but came and dwelt in it as the person of Jesus? If one were to look at Him, the conclusion would be to engage the physical even more wholeheartedly.
The answer then, is not in loathing routine and the mundane, but in the incredibly counterintuitive decision to press in even more. Saint Augustine says the things of this world “are good and sweet only as long as they are used to do his will.” More than we could ever imagine, His will plays out in the mundane and slow moving moments of our lives. The God we so often search the heavens to find lives within the steady rain as you wake up on yet another Thursday morning, the stop and go of a morning commute, the creaking elevator doors as they open to your office lobby. In the routine, in your routine, is the ever tangible reality of His presence. It is there, but only experienced as much as we remember and seek it. And as we seek Him in the mundane, we begin to experience the good things of this world as they were always intended. Our eyes slowly wake to the flashes of light where He is presently working. The workout class you stumble through becomes an avenue to feel and know how meticulously He made you. Staying up the extra 15 minutes to wash your roommates dishes becomes a moment of humble service. Another unproductive project meeting becomes space to follow Jesus into knowing your coworkers. The simple act of seeking to know another human, another creature handmade by God? That’s adventure. Life begins to creep into the things that once felt dead. It is not found in escape from the routine. Life is found when we allow the Author of it to show us the beauty in routine, even on a Tuesday.